Currently reading : Pan and the Goat
Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum
British Museum, Great Russell Street,
London WC1B 3DG
Showing archaeological finds from the two ancient cities destroyed after the eruption of mount vesuvius in AD79, the exhibition provides material with which we can determine the more intimate details of the lives of their inhabitants. Among them is a statue of Pan – god of the wild, with hindquarters, legs and horns of a goat – known for his unparalleled sexual appetite, shown in a most primal setting, leaning forward visibly penetrating a goat.
The exhibition shows the statue, for the first time since it’s 1752 discovery, unsegregated from the rest of the collections, previously housed in a restricted section and only shown separately as part of a ‘pornagraphic’ Secret Cabinet display in 2000.
This exclusion acts as an interesting marker of sexual anthropology; projecting our modern sensibilities and attitudes to sex onto the lives of a civilisation living 2000 years prior to our own with a warning; opening up the potential for individual censorship, labelling something that would have sat so freely and unashamedly open when it was created, says a fair deal about how our understanding and openness to discuss and display the nature of our sexual desires has, or perhaps hasn’t, developed.